Lebanon: greatness and misfortunes of the Hariri clan

Home"TO THE ONE"Lebanon: greatness and misfortunes of the Hariri clan
2 Partages
A poster showing Lebanese President Michel Aoun (left) alongside Prime Minister Saad Hariri last Friday in Beirut along a highway in Beirut. - Photo credits: JOSEPH EID / AFP

RECIT - Saad Hariri arrived Tuesday night in Beirut, the eve of Lebanon's Independence Day. His resignation, announced on November 4 in Riyadh, ..

RECIT - Saad Hariri arrived Tuesday night in Beirut, the eve of Lebanon's Independence Day. His resignation, announced on Nov. 4 in Riyadh, and his return negotiated by France may not mean the end of his career. But this episode is a turning point in the history of a clan that has dominated the Lebanese political scene for twenty-five years.

Special Envoy to Beirut

The rise and fall of the Hariri occupy an entire part of the history of Lebanon, placed by geography and history at the heart of all the tensions of the Middle East. She is embodied by two men: the father, Rafic, founder of the dynasty, the stature out of the ordinary, and the son, Saad, too early propelled to the front of the stage, and who will not have managed to maintain his legacy . Critics will not fail to point out the qualities of the father and the errors or lacks of his heir. But the circumstances faced by Saad Hariricaught between regional rivalries, would probably have been right for a superman.
Between Lebanon and Arabia, five points to understand the Hariri affair

"King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Jacques Chirac weighed in Saad's favor"

Rouba Kabbara, former journalist at AFP and Mustaqbal

The fate of the Hariri and that of Saad rocked February 14, 2005, when a car bomb sprays Rafic's convoy on the cornice of Beirut. The choice of the youngest son as his successor is already a surprise. At the scene of the attack, the crowd cheers Bahaa, the eldest son. It is however Saad who will be chosen a few days later to take again the head of the dynasty. "King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Jacques Chirac weighed in his favor," says Rouba Kabbara, a former journalist with AFP and Mustaqbal, a newspaper owned by the Hariri, and familiar with the destinies of the clan. "The widow of Hariri, Nazik, Rafic's second wife, is also leaning for him. Bahaa is too brittle, and Rafic himself had a grudge against his eldest son, whom he held partly responsible for the death of his younger brother Houssam (killed in 1990 when the two young men people are racing Porsche in the streets of Boston). "

Saad is only 35 years old and has only his name for him. His reputation is that of a friendly playboy, who managed the Saudi branch of family activities. But his experience of the complexities of Lebanese politics is slim. It is a very light baggage to take the head of a system that rested entirely on the shoulders of one man.

The reconstruction of Beirut

The shadow of his father is everywhere. Born in 1944 into a modest Sunni family in Saida, Rafic Hariri had made himself alone. When the civil war ended in the late 1990s, most of the new figures on the Lebanese scene were warlords reconverted into politics: Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun, Walid Jumblatt, Nabih Berri. Rafic Hariri, it enters by another way: that of money. And he has a lot.

Like many enterprising Lebanese, Saida's young man went to seek his fortune in Saudi Arabia. Oil prices are rising after the first oil shock of 1973, and the kingdom becomes an eldorado for those who know how to win the trust of Saudi princes and participate in the galloping modernization of the country. We must build roads, public buildings, palaces. At the head of a public works company, Rafik Hariri knows how to win the royal trust. He becomes the man of great works, entrusted to him by King Khaled, then his successor King Fahd. First at the head of a subsidiary of the French company Oger, Rafic Hariri wins, one after another, the largest public works contracts. In 1979, the subsidiary bought the parent company, which became Oger International. With this flagship construction, Rafic Hariri inherits a well-supplied address book in French politics. He knits with Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, a deep friendship.

"Rafic was a Balzacian character. He had a great thirst for social revenge. He always felt a mixture of fascination and contempt for the Lebanese old bourgeoisie "

Charbel Nahas, former Lebanese minister

A man of the Saudis, Rafic Hariri becomes one of the craftsmen of the Taif agreements, signed in Arabia in 1989, which put an end to the war under the aegis of two godfathers, Syria of Hafez al-Assad and Arabia. The new institutions are redrawn in favor of the prime minister, chosen from the Sunni community, who overtakes the Maronite Christian president. The agreement also ratifies the Syrian presence in Lebanon and makes Hezbollah Shiite the only militia allowed to keep its weapons, while Israel still occupies the south of the country. So allies, before opposing, these forces will continue to weigh on the destinies of Lebanon and those of the Hariri.

Having become head of government in 1992, with his good interpersonal skills and immense financial resources, Rafic Hariri undertook an even bigger project than those who earned him his fortune. After sixteen years of war, Lebanon is in ruins. Beirut, the former "Paris of the East", is a devastated city, cut in two by a long scar after a war that pitted all clans and confessions. In the smoke of cigars, the billionaire turned prime minister is beating his policy. From Saida, in the South, from where he is from, to Tripoli, the big Sunni city of the North, Rafic Hariri directs everything. Its billions are used for everything: buy loyalties, disarm opponents. "He was a Balzacian figure," says Charbel Nahas, a polytechnician, former minister and a fine analyst of his country. "There was a great thirst for revenge at home. He always felt a mixture of fascination and contempt for the old Lebanese bourgeoisie, of which he had made some of his members his employees. "

"Effective corruption"

Rafic Hariri blithely mixes the public and private spheres. The confusion between his own funds and public money is total. Sociologists cite his style of government as an example of "effective corruption". The results are in. The Lebanese economy is starting again. The symbol of his method is the reconstruction of the center of Beirut. Solidere, the company of which it is the principal shareholder, buys at low cost the lands of the devastated city center before rebuilding identically, making colossal profits. And behind the Ottoman-style facades, the old souks become a shopping center full of luxury shops, reminiscent more of a Mediterranean version of Dubai than an old Levantine city.

But in a Lebanon at the heart of rivalry between the regional powers, politics is not only part of Monopoly: it is also a dangerous game, which the billionaire, friend of the princes, will pay the price. Ally of the regime of Riyadh as that of Damascus, Rafic Hariri finds himself in an awkward position when these interests come to oppose. In 2004, he refused a change of constitution that would allow the candidate from Damascus, Emile Lahoud, to run for a new term as president. President Bashar al-Assad, the son and successor of Hafez, threatens to "break Lebanon" on his head. His career ends in the wreckage of his pulverized armored convoy.

"Saad is probably not a very good policy, but the situation he faces is almost insurmountable"

Nicholas Blanford, author of a biography of Rafic Hariri

The tragic death of Rafic makes him a martyr and triggers a wave of giant demonstrations that demand and obtain the departure of the Syrian occupation forces. But Syria and Iran keep a key card in the Lebanese game: Hezbollah, a Shiite religious party, which has kept an armed militia in the name of the fight against Israel, and becomes the dominant power of Lebanese politics.

It is against these opponents that Saad will have to play his score. Rafic's second son inherited a portion of the paternal fortune, divided among Rafic's five surviving children, three of whom were born to his second wife, Nazik. In addition to Saudi Oger, the construction giant, the empire includes real estate companies like Solidere, but also media, such as Future TV, telecommunications companies. Saad is also head of the Lebanese Sunni community, whose party Futur is at the center of the anti-Syrian coalition, named March 14, in memory of the biggest event of the spring of Cedar, in 2005.

In this Shakespearean drama, where all the protagonists often know each other personally, Saad Hariri plays the role of Hamlet. He is a reluctant heir of his father, he has to contend between his desire for revenge against those he considers his assassins, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, and the accommodations to which he is constrained by the imperatives of regional politics. . Having become head of the government in 2009, the heir of Rafic Hariri learns to his cost that the privileged ties with the Saudi monarchy have a counterpart, when he must go to Damascus by order of Riyadh, and embrace Bashar al-Assad, that he has long accused of having ordered the murder of his father.

Business collapses

Saad, who for a long time receives visitors with the portrait of his father placed on an armchair in the place of honor, also lacks charisma. "He speaks slowly, plays clan leader, but it's just a pose," says a political analyst in Beirut. His opponents mock this prime minister "remote", bragged to take his orders in Riyadh before passing on to Lebanon, where he is rarely. Between June 2009 and January 2011, Hariri spends more than 200 days abroad. He skis in Switzerland and divides between his residences in France, of which he holds the nationality, in Sardinia, and especially in Saudi Arabia, of which he is also national.

As Saudi Oger has significant operating expenses and many employees, the company was very exposed when cash ran out. "

Charbel Nahas, former Lebanese minister

"It must be recognized that Saad Hariri inherited a very difficult situation," says Nicholas Blanford, author of a masterly biography of Rafic Hariri (Killing M. Lebanon). "He is politically opposed to Hezbollah, while nothing can be done against Hezbollah in Lebanon. It must also compromise, to regain access to public markets and bail out its companies. It is probably not a very good policy, but the situation it faces is almost insurmountable. "Saad Hariri is caught between his alliance with Arabia, which he depends on from the economic standpoint, and the dominance Hezbollah's rise in the Lebanese political scene. After demonstrating its strength by taking control of Beirut in May 2008 in a few hours, Hezbollah is all-powerful in Lebanon. He does not directly exercise power, but vetoes when he deems it necessary.

On the financial side, the difficulties accumulate for Saad Hariri. The Saudi kingdom no longer has such deep coffers, and the new leaders do not have as close relations with him as in his father's time. Contracts are no longer paid, or with more and more delay. "Since Saudi Oger has a lot of operating expenses and a lot of employees, the company was very exposed when the cash ran out," said Charbel Nahas.

Back in power in 2016, Saad Hariri tried one last time to rebuild. But the victories of Iran and Hezbollah in the region, in Syria and Iraq, worry more the new Saudi power than the difficulties of the Hariri group. His resignation and the end of his privileged relations with Arabia will probably mean the end of Saudi Oger, and that of the clientelist system set up by Rafik Hariri. And the end of the splendor of a clan that has for thirty years weighed more than another on the destinies of Lebanon.


Adrien Jaulmes



Source: Lebanon: greatness and misfortunes of the Hariri clan

2 Partages

Comments are closed.

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By: XYZScripts.com